It can be a little tricky to make a list of the best synth pedals out on the market. While some synth pedals are technically better than others, you’ll also want a pedal that gives you a unique sound that will allow for sonic experimentation. This is why we’ve put together a list of pedals that give you a good mix of both. Read on for the top 10 best synth pedals that you can add to your rig in 2020.
1DigiTech Dirty Robot
Let’s start with one of the more straightforward synth pedals on this list. The DigiTech Dirty Robot strikes the perfect balance between complexity and accessibility. It comes with two voice options: the wah and the synth.
And while some of you may find two voice options lacking, this pedal also comes with three concentric knobs. This allows you to manipulate the tone at an incredible degree, something that’s quite rare in pedals this small. Lastly, you can tweak the sound even further by using the Drift Knob that blends the Square, Octave, and Sub waves to achieve the robotic computer noises that this pedal is best known for.
Based on the circuitry of the iconic Korg MS-20, a synth used by the likes of the Aphex Twin and Daft Punk, the Subdecay M3 gives you that 70s inspired sounds mixed with modern-day engineering.
This pedal features three digitally controlled oscillators that offer heavy synth sounds that remain consistent all throughout. The pedal also offers a total of eleven oscillator combinations that you can mess around with to produce the sound that you desire by tweaking everything from the filter to the low-frequency oscillation.
If you’re into old sci-fi movies then the Dwarfcraft HAX2 may just be the pedal for you. Vastly improving on its predecessor’s design, the HAX2 now gives users the choice between square or sine wave ring mod.
Both waveforms allow for a wide array of sounds that range from subsonic tremolo to laser highs similar to what you would hear from the old Star Wars trilogy. As a bonus, the HAX2 even comes with a filter mode that allows for esoteric percussive beats along with tone-shaping that can rival a regular synthesizer.
4Empress Effects Zoia
To call the Zoia a pedal is a bit of an understatement as it could pass off as a mini-computer. The Zoia is a modular synthesizer squeezed into the body of a guitar pedal.
It’s equipped with oscillators, filters, and low-frequency oscillators — which would be enough for some pedals but not for the Zoia. It comes with 80 ever-expanding modules and over 20 pre-built effects modules. If you know what you’re doing, you could probably replace an entire pedalboard with this magnificent device.
Late last year Mooer released what may just be the most compact synth pedal out on the market today. The E7 is a polyphonic synth pedal equipped with seven analog synth sounds and an arpeggiator function to boot.
Each of the seven analog synth sounds can be tweaked using the high/low-frequency cut, attack, and speed knobs with the speed knob being the main point of control for the arpeggiator. This is impressive considering the pedal’s size, which barely reaches 2 inches.
6Korg Miku Stomp Vocaloid Guitar Pedal
As previously stated, the pedals that make it to this list are here due to properties that make them stand out from the rest of your everyday pedals. And to say that the Korg Miku Stomp Vocaloid Guitar pedal stands out is a gross understatement.
Inspired by digital pop star Hatsune Miki, the Korg Miku Stomp pedal is unique due to its ability to sing. And we don’t mean produce sounds similar to a human voice, as this pedal gives your guitar the ability to produce words. It possesses 11 lyric patterns with the option of using an iPhone app to add your own lyrics, making the pedal fully customizable.
Some see Boss as the industry standard for guitar pedals, so we couldn’t possibly put together a list of best synth pedals without including the SY-300. Designed for turning your guitar into a polyphonic synthesizer, the Boss SY-300 Guitar Synth comes with four effects processors and three simultaneous synth sections for multi-effect dynamism.
It also helps that Boss partnered up with their parent company Roland, who make pretty good synthesizers themselves, to give guitar players one of the most practical synth pedals currently out on the market.
8Red Witch Synthotron II
The first iteration of the Synthotron was released back in 2012 and was notorious for being completely analog, thus providing users with a slew of sounds simply unavailable to other pedals.
The Synthotron II improves upon the initial pedal’s design by being a much more stable version that offers more range that can go one octave up, two octaves up, and one octave down. The Synthotron II features Dual Analog Synthesizers, sample holds, and an envelope filter. True to the Synthotron I, this pedal remains completely analog delivering sounds reminiscent of the synths from the 1970s.
9EarthQuaker Devices Rainbow Machine V2
Boutique pedal makers get a bad rap for being gimmicky and not as technically proficient as the larger pedal companies. The EarthQuaker Devices Rainbow Machine V2 is the antithesis to that statement.
This pedal produces one of the most technical and esoteric sounds that you can get from a single pedal. It has impeccable tracking, which allows for total control using its Polyphonic Pitch Shifting Modulator that allows you to go from a Major 3rd up to a Perfect 4th below. The Rainbow Machine V2 improves upon the previous version via its new recalibrated Magic control, which offers an unprecedented range of available sounds.
It’s easy to see why the Enzo is a crowd favorite when talking about synth pedals. It does everything that you want a synth pedal to do.
This pedal is equipped with multi-voice capability, excellent tracking, three synth modes (poly, mono, and arpeggiated), a comprehensive delay function, and sustain control that you can use to extend your volume envelope way beyond the capabilities of most pedals all the way to endless synth hold. The Meris Enzo does it all and would be a near-perfect pedal for professional musicians.
If you liked this list, check out our article on the Top 10 Best Tremolo Pedals for 2020 Reviews to see which Tremolo pedals you should add to your pedalboard.
George A. Smith received a Masters Degree in Music Education from the University of Berkeley. George has been teaching music professionally for the past 8 years. George regularly contributes content to several music websites including LoadRecords.com.